Big week for surging Michigan, Purdue (Jan 09, 2018)
No. 5 Purdue and Michigan certainly couldn't be in more similar situations in advance of their Big 10 conference meeting in Ann Arbor at 9 p.m. on Tuesday.
Red-hot teams who are on long winning streaks?
Two teams that are at or near the top of the Big 10 standings who can gain a big edge over a fellow contender with a win?
A pair of squads who are beginning their biggest weeks of the year to date?
The Boilermakers and Wolverines have that in common as well.
Purdue enters 15-2 overall and 4-0 in Big 10 play, is on an 11-game winning streak and actually hasn't lost a game in the United States yet, given its only two losses of the season came in November to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Bahamas at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
"You have to be on your P's and Q's against them," Purdue head coach Matt Painter said of Michigan. "You have to be detail-oriented and know what you are supposed to do. You have to play hard, fly around and make it hard on them. They are going to make shots. They have a great system and skilled players. They can't be open. You have to be contesting shots. They have gotten the best of us and hopefully we can play better."
The defending Big 10 regular-season champions, Purdue has beaten Maryland, Northwestern, Rutgers and Nebraska to open conference play, but only the Maryland game was away from West Lafayette.
It will be a much different dynamic this week for Purdue, which will have two road tests at Michigan and on Saturday at Minnesota.
Purdue has four players averaging in double-figures, led by sophomore guard Carsen Edwards (16.8 ppg). Senior 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas (14.7 ppg), senior forward Vincent Edwards (14.1 ppg, 8.6 rebounds per game) and senior guard Dakota Mathias (13.3 ppg) are also key scorers for a veteran Purdue team.
The Boilermakers will also likely have on their mind what happened last year in Ann Arbor and in the Big 10 tournament.
Despite winning the regular-season title, Purdue lost last February at Michigan and to the Wolverines in the quarterfinals of the Big 10 tournament.
"I thought they totally outclassed us last year at their place," Painter said. "It looked like we didn't pay attention to the scouting report. They just kind of did what they wanted to do."
The eventual winners of last year's Big 10 tournament, Michigan also enters the game on a roll, having won seven straight games since a loss at Ohio State on Dec. 4.
Michigan enters 14-3 overall and 3-1 in Big 10 play following wins at Iowa and at home over Illinois since conference action resumed in January.
The Wolverines also have four players averaging in double-figures, led by junior guard Charles Matthews (15.6 ppg), who is enjoying a fine first season in Ann Arbor after transferring from Kentucky.
Junior forward Moritz Wagner (14.1 ppg), senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and junior guard Duncan Robinson (10.2) are the other players averaging in double-figures for the Wolverines.
Just like Purdue, this is also a big week for Michigan, which on Saturday will face the Big 10's other top-5 ranked team, arch rival and No. 4 Michigan State in East Lansing.
That will be the only meeting of the regular season between the Spartans and Wolverines.
Purdue and Michigan will play for a second time this season on Jan. 25 in West Lafayette.
Despite his team's recent good play, Michigan head coach John Beilein said this week will be a better barometer as to the progress his squad has made since the beginning of the season.
"If we can beat the Purdues and Michigan States then I am probably going to be a believer that we are OK," Beilein said. "But right now, we have a lot of things we need to grow and be a more experienced team physically and mentally if we are going to say we are a good team. We are 14-3, but we have a long way to go."